Crossing the threshold into one of the caverns of the Glen Cove Salt Cave, nearly every element around you is made of salt, naturally. Navigating through the dimly lit space, the pebble-sized salt crystals which line the floor crunch under your bare feet, as if walking on smooth sand.
The darkened room is occupied by a group of reclining chairs. After you take a seat, the doors are shut, the lights turned off, and meditation music begins to softly stream through hidden speakers in the ceiling, bringing you away from the outside world. Suddenly, a cool, salt-infused breeze — which pours through vents concealed behind the salt-brick walls — begins to fill the room.
When Yajhayra Reyes, 24, of Glen Cove, opened her business last month, she aimed at giving residents an outlet to relax and decompress, while also exposing them to the health benefits of salt therapy.
Reyes first pursued the idea of opening a salt cave this January and started her search for a space in the spring. When she found a location with parking and handicap accessibility, she imported 25 tons of Himalayan salt from Pakistan. With the help of her father, Raul, an independent contractor, she used the salt to design the interior of the caves over the summer. The store opened on Oct. 11.
According to the Salt Therapy Association, the inhalation of dry salt, known as halotherapy, helps absorb allergens, toxins and foreign substances that build-up in the lungs. The salt particles can also help relieve acne and other skin conditions. While halotherapy is recognized as a safe and effective wellness practice, Reyes acknowledges that it is not intended to replace medications or treatments.
To mimic the conditions of an actual Himalayan salt cave, Reyes puts customers inside one of two salt-filled rooms. Then, using a halogenerator pumps salt-infused air into the space.
“I’m not throwing you in there and you’re just looking at salt,” Reyes said. “You’re actually breathing it in.”
A graduate student at SUNY Old Westbury, Reyes, first discovered salt therapy when she was struggling with eczema in high school. Desperate to find relief, she read about the benefits of halotherapy online.
After going to a few salt cave sessions in Huntington, Reyes noticed an immediate improvement in her condition. “Thirty percent of my eczema was gone after a week,” she said. And after one month, she was completely clear of any symptoms. “If it was a placebo effect, how would [the eczema] have gone away?”
Ever since, Reyes, an undergraduate in public health, has been a frequent salt therapy patient, and now she’s trying to make a business out of it. With only a handful of salt caves scattered across Long Island, she aims at giving residents an affordable halotherapy option located just minutes away.
Glen Cove residents Margret Hartigan and Lenore Guirreri, both 77, discovered salt therapy two years ago in Pennsylvania. They have attended a few sessions at the Glen Cove Salt Cave.
Guirreri, who struggles with sinus headaches, claimed that spending time in the cave has improved her condition. “I was looking for something much more holistic,” she said. “My experience in salt caves has been very therapeutic.”
Hartigan sought out salt therapy to improve her breathing and arthritis. “We’re introducing other people to it,” Hartigan said.
The two were complimentary of the Glen Cove Salt Cave’s “affordable” prices, and plan on becoming regular customers.
In addition to the $35 individual sessions, Reyes has hosted some group events in the salt caves. Last Saturday, she cleared out the larger cave for a yoga class, and a few weeks earlier hosted a Halloween-themed gathering, where kids dressed up in costume and played in the salt cave. Reyes also sells a variety of salt-based products in her store.
With no known side effects, Reyes believes everyone can benefit from a few sessions inside a salt cave. “This is a very noninvasive form of being able to feel better,” she said. “You don’t know if it’s going to work until you try it.”